Apps

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August 26, 2015

Leak Reveals Snapchat Revenues of Just $3.1M in 2014

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Snapchat is a photo messaging service prized by more than 100 million daily active users that provides a sense of inconspicuousness on the web. Snapchat doesn’t save images but instead provides quick “snaps” of content for seconds before they’re zapped from existence permanently. It was a profoundly unique idea when it hit the scene, particularly among young users who now characterize the app and its advertising market. 

In the beginning, evaluations were set high, and the chances of acquisition became both possible and likely. In 2013, Snapchat walked away from Facebook’s $3 billion offer. The startup’s current evaluation floats around $20 billion. 

So, maybe Facebook was a little off the mark? At least, it would have seemed that way prior to the financial records leaked by Gawker earlier this month. The balance sheets revealed Snapchat’s financial records from 2014.

According to the leaked documents, Snapchat lost $128 million last year. Revenue was just over $3 million, which isn’t something to scoff at; however, it’s a far cry from what Facebook had offered the year before.  

To be fair, the report doesn’t take into account the advertising schemes put into place last October or the ad revenue from the “Discover” feature, which made a huge impression due to notoriously high usage rates. While not accounted for on the balance sheets, these revenue sources would still not close the gap on Snapchat’s unusually high expenses.  

“Outside Services” for example, was one of the largest expenses, approaching $14 million in 2014. What that means exactly remains unknown, although it’s likely paying for a mix of contractors, accountants, and similar advisory positions.  

Surprisingly, Snapchat spends very little ($600,000) on advertising—something unusual for an app with more than 100 million users. 

If you’re a Snapchat fan don’t worry. The company has 300 million in the bank which, according to Mike Dempsey of venture capital analytics firm CB Insights, will keep the business afloat long enough to make up lost ground.  

“If Snapchat is at a similar point right now in its business lifecycle as 2012-2013 Twitter, the new funding probably gives them a multi-year runway,” he said.

There’s still plenty of time for Snapchat to recover from a seemingly bad financial year as well as this PR debacle. As the company moves forward with aggressive advertising plans, it’s likely the balance sheets won’t look this grim in the future—that is, if they ever get leaked again.

August 18, 2015

Here’s What Your Digital Marketing Campaign Should Look Like

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SMBs are constantly looking out for convenient, affordable and effective marketing methods. But in order to make digital marketing work, you need to understand how each  marketing strategy operates. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the main strands of an effective digital marketing campaign:

 

SEO

The digital marketplace is crowded, so visibility is one of the first - and toughest - challenges a business faces. Creating a strong SEO strategy requires detailed research of your industry and target market, and a thorough knowledge not just of your products, but how the majority of people will search for them. Establishing which keywords you will target is the first step. Next, your onsite strategy (that is, for your own website) should incorporate enough keywords that the search-engine bots know what you’re all about, but not so many that it affects the fluency and style of your content. Your offsite strategy pertains to how external web spaces refer to your site. That means accruing inbound links and promoting your brand via guest posts on other industry websites. A diverse SEO strategy is the most effective in terms of boosting your rankings in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).

 

Mobile

Mobile marketing is the process of reaching an audience through smartphones and tablets. It could be in the form of native technologies like SMS messaging and voicemail, or amending existing web content to make it more ‘mobile friendly’, or, if you have the budget, via apps and other types of software. There are many ways to reach people using mobile marketing. A solid mobile marketing campaign encourages users to visit your site and social media pages.

 

Social Media

Social Media has been a huge boon for SMBs. Even on a very tight or non-existing marketing budget, entrepreneurs can use social media to good effect. Most of the big social media players - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn - are free and easy to use. 

 

Blogging

Regular blogging is a good way to establish authority in your industry. It constantly increases the size of your website by adding fresh, relevant content, adding value even if you don’t command a huge readership. But a truly compelling, well-written blog containing original expert opinion will give your brand credibility with competitors and customers.

 

Email

It’s not the first port of call for marketers any longer, but email should still form part of a multi-channel marketing strategy. For getting rich content out to large numbers of people, it’s hard to beat. Be sure to use it to full effect, offering something of value with every email. As with SMS marketing, email marketing demands a lightness of touch, so avoid sending emails much more than once a month.

 

August 17, 2015

Apple Dodges 'Lost Messages' Lawsuit

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Earlier this month, Apple escaped what could have become a major headache: a lawsuit that threatened to open the floodgates to many more. Had it moved forward, Apple stood to lose millions of dollars in damages.

The class action related to the widely-publicized iMessage glitch that saw millions of messages go undelivered. The gremlin affected a specific subset of mobile users who had switched from iOS devices to Androids within their existing contracts. 

According to the plaintiffs, Apple willfully kept SMS messages sent from iMessage to non-Apple devices, failing to notify either the sender or receiver that they had not been delivered. Furthermore, the company was accused of taking insufficient action to remedy the problem, leaving Android users to find solutions of their own. 

What nobody disputes is that Apple knew about the bug. When it first emerged last year, they unceremoniously introduced a microsite where users could deregister their iMessage accounts. Although this went some way towards alleviating the problem, the solution was poorly advertised, leaving many Android ‘defectors’ in the dark. Apple also faced criticism for offering a solution that required users to fix the problem themselves. 

Savvy Android users with their ears to the digital-ground did find their own solutions, such as requesting their iPhone contacts to sever the iMessage connection between phone numbers.  

Despite the widespread inconvenience caused by Apple’s inaction, US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled that the class action lawsuit couldn’t move forward. Judge Koh said that the plaintiffs could not prove they were inconvenienced by any ‘contractual breach or interference’ owing to the iMessage glitch. She went on to say, however, that individual claims could still be filed against Apple, offering some hope to other parties affected by the issue. 

Judge Koh stated:

“[The] Plaintiff does not have to allege an absolute right to receive every text message in order to allege that Apple’s intentional acts have caused an ‘actual breach or disruption’ of the contractual relationship.”

Though the ruling offers a legal opportunity for further lawsuits, the reality of mounting a case against one of the biggest corporations in the world is likely to prove prohibitively expensive. Whether they acted, or failed to act, out of malice - as some cynics have suggested - or whether it was an honest oversight with an inadequate response, it looks like Apple has had a lucky escape from a potentially disastrous slew of lawsuits.

August 16, 2015

BYOD Has Taken Off in Our Schools

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If you had asked me ten years ago if I thought it was a good idea to allow students access to personal mobile devices during class time, I would have shuddered at the thought. I belong to one of the last generations that can remember what life was like before iPhones, tablets and Google. My younger sister, born only four years later, can hardly remember a time before AOL.  

For those of us who can make the distinction, I think it’s healthy to fear the unknown ramifications of our tech advancements, particularly on the youth. However, not everyone agrees with this view. 

Despite how many of us might feel about technology in the classroom, nobody wants to be the one stuck harping on the past. Today’s young learners have become so accustomed to mobile, tablets, and desktop computers that it would seem regressive to deny them access to these tools during a formal education—tools that may help students to learn smarter, faster, and more efficiently. 

Instead of resisting what comes naturally to these students, wouldn’t it be better to change the way we teach

According to a report by Sophic Capital, mobile education is the platform of choice for current students and teachers. The popularity and accessibility of mobile devices has made them as common among students as pens and paper. Many school districts are taking advantage of this and adopting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) polices. 

 

What Is BYOD?

The BYOD policy provides educational institutions with a way to implement technology in the classroom and manage budgets by putting most of the cost on students. Instead of spending money on a uniform platform or device, students can use the device they already have or are most comfortable using. 

The benefits are unique and largely new to the landscape of public education. First, students will take ownership of the learning process by having more control over the ways in which some information is received. Further, they will have more flexibility outside of the classroom to review material during times most suitable to their schedule. 

Teachers will also gain significant insight into their students’ progress, gaining valuable analytical tools. Teachers can also communicate with students more regularly and gather real-time information from students to ensure material is being absorbed properly; if not, the teacher will have more time to adjust the lesson plan.  

If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because there are some serious drawbacks that must be addressed. For most of the educational tools to function within the BYOD policy, students will also need access to the Internet. Parents and administrators alike agree that open access to the web is dangerous. From social media, inappropriate content, and predatory concerns, the list of issues and dangers grows with every passing year.  Formal safeguards among school districts have included comprehensive network security, limited access, and monitoring. Time will tell if these safeguards are enough to proliferate BYOD polices across the country. 

August 14, 2015

Textbooks Vs. Tablets

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In 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District made headlines for spending $30 million on iPads for nearly 640,000 students. Currently, the K-12 publishing market is an $8 billion industry, dominated by just three publishes: McGraw, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The debate as to whether more school districts should make the digital leap is met with fierce opposition from publishers as well as other tech naysayers, who see the value of printed textbooks unrivaled by tablets.  

Why should school districts replace textbooks? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? Textbooks aren’t broken, but students today learn and engage differently with technology than previous generations. Tablets allow students to feel empowered by the learning process by playing to their strengths. Moreover, most K-12 teachers believe technology benefits students’ learning goals. 

Some of the more practical reasons tablets are working well in places like Los Angeles involve the hardware itself. For starters, one tablet has the ability to store more books than a student will ever need for the entire duration of his or her public education. Plus, in addition to textbooks, tablets can store homework, quizzes, and tests, eliminating heavy loads from students’ backpacks and desks. 

Additionally, tablets allow teachers to give their students the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. Publishers have been criticized for making minor amendments to text volumes and charging schools top dollar for new editions. Once textbooks go digital, the print costs will be eliminated, which will result in textbook savings of as much as 60% for school districts. 

But aren’t iPads expensive? Yes, they are. One of the strongest arguments against a paperless system is that technology doesn’t come cheap. The trouble isn’t so much with the tablet cost as all the software and infrastructure school districts would have to develop to support these devices. To put things into perspective, the average battery life of a tablet is less than the length of a school day. Imagine 640,000 iPads plugged in: that’s a lot of juice.

Additionally, wear and tear on a textbook can go much further than on an iPad. And a forgotten textbook on a picnic table doesn’t have the same appeal as a state-of-the-art tablet. Some paperless opponents believe students will be targeted for theft if tablets become a common student item. 

There are more obvious problems facing the paperless fight. Open access to the Internet is like opening Pandora’s box; students are notoriously distracted by social media, gaming, and texting. 

Whatever stance a school district takes, the omnipresence of mobile in student life will remain. Will we choose to adapt to student preferences, or are the risks too high?

 

August 13, 2015

SMS Concierge GoButler Wins $8m in Funding

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Wouldn’t it be great to have a personal assistant? Apple’s digital concierge called Siri was supposed to set your appointments, make it easy to access information, and recommend places to eat nearby. But that’s not exactly how most of use Siri. Instead, we ask her for bedtime stories and other ridiculous queries—our dreams of virtual assistance took a few giant leaps back. 

GoButler is looking to make up some lost ground. Using basic SMS messaging, GoButler connects users with “heroes,” or trained employees of GoButler that assist with fulfilling just about any request. The service is free and claims to be able to handle even the tallest order, so long as it’s legal.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because this isn’t a novel idea. Similar products already exist like Magic, an app used primarily on the West Coast with the same general SMS-based premise. So what makes GoButler different?

 

How GoBulter Stands Out from the Pack

To start, the originally Berlin-based startup has just locked down $8 million in series A funding; this corresponds with the app’s recent release from beta and introduction to several new markets including the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. 

GoButler also just moved its headquarters to New York City, where the company plans to develop technology to improve the automation aspects of the service. Moreover, the move was not coincidental. The GoButler team is prospectively looking to take over the East Coast, a current gap in the virtual assistant market, with the hopes of beating out its competitors as it improves the software and grows the user base.  

The startup’s founder and CEO Navid Hadzaad acknowledged that virtual assistants are already available in the app store but rejects any notions that GoButler is a specific clone; Magic and GoButler were launched just 3 weeks apart from each other.  

All three founders of GoButler—Navid Hadzaad, Jens Urbaniak and Maximilian Deilmann—were previously employed by the successful German tech company Rocket Internet; however, upon completing the app, each quickly left his job. 

Ironically, Rocket Internet’s Global Founders Capital was one of the key contributors in the series A funding that took place just a few weeks ago.  

Since launching earlier this year, GoButler reports 100,000 users with nearly 1 million requests made so far. There are currently more than 120 operators working around the clock, assisting with a variety of requests from pizza delivery to purchasing plane tickets. 

Navid maintains the company will remain free to users as it grows in the US and abroad, with some discussion of affiliate programs circulating in the near future.

The emphasis on SMS messaging in several recently developed apps is not surprising. Multiple reports indicate that texting is the number one feature used on all smartphone devices across nearly every age demographic. Texting, for many people, is more comfortable and convenient than using multiple apps. If this remains true and apps like GoButler and Magic proliferate, texting may finally become the personal assistants we wanted but never thought we would have.  

August 09, 2015

10 Mobile Marketing Case Studies to Pay Attention To

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Whether you’re looking for hard facts on mobile marketing or creative inspiration to help launch your next campaign, these ten businesses showcase the very best mobile marketing has to offer. 

 

TAO Nightclub

This Las Vegas dance club seized the night with a VIP text message that went out to 2,000 subscribers on a slow evening. That same night, the club had 220 more attendees who, in addition to the cover charge, each spent $20 on drinks. The club made a cool $6,170 extra dollars that night, proving that impromptu campaigns can be incredibly effective.

 

RedBox

Using multiple forms of marketing including kiosk advertising, email, and social media, RedBox was able to increase its pool of mobile subscribers in just ten days. The campaign was called “10 Days of Deal” and encouraged customers to opt in via text for a chance to win a discount on their next rental. The customers saved some money and RedBox generated more than 1.5 million text messages to users in ten days. 

 

PETA2

PETA2 is a youth-based subgroup of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). During Warped Tour, PETA2 solicited concertgoers to text “BUTT” to a short code that subscribed users to PETA2’s “Animals Don’t Smoke” initiative, which is aimed to stop cigarette testing on animals. Participants were rewarded with shirts and hats for opting in. Once subscribed, new users were texted information urging them to send their support for a ban on cigarette testing to the FDA. More than 25,000 people joined this mobile initiative. 

 

Texas Roadhouse 

This popular western restaurant began a six-month mobile marketing pilot at 20 locations in an effort to boost their mobile subscriptions. The “TextUs Loyalty Club” offered patrons a free appetizer in exchange for the opt-in. Forty-four percent of customers were willing to provide personal information in exchange for the reward. Roadhouse’s campaign was largely successful, generating an average 17% redemption rate during the test period. 

 

Dunkin’ Donuts 

Dunkin’ Donuts is popular throughout the U.S., but a regional campaign in Boston proved successful for this quick-service restaurant. Using radio and Internet advertising, the company was able to capture 7,500 new mobile subscribers—17% of those new subscribers forwarded the messages and promotions to a friend, increasing the Boston area’s store traffic by 21%.  

 

Papa John’s Pizza 

A U.K. branch of the widely popular pizza chain Papa John’s pushed a campaign to its current mobile subscribers offering discounts on pizza. In the three weeks the franchise ran the campaign, overall sales increased by 33%.

 

Red Cross

Even nonprofits are getting in on the mobile marketing action these days. The Red Cross, collected donations after Hurricane Sandy, which was reported to have caused an upwards of $50 billion dollars in damage. By linking the donations directly to a user’s phone bill, the donation process was streamlined and easier for the average person to complete. Twenty percent of all the donations raised by the Red Cross’ effort were from text messages. 

 

Pizza Hut 

Geofenceing is a digital perimeter that sends text messages to subscribers based on a user’s proximity to the geofence. Pizza Hut in the U.K. set up geofences within a half-mile of each of its 340 store locations. On average, these stores were 142% more efficient at increasing incremental sales, 4.4 times more effective than TV ads, and 2.6 times more effective than online ads. 

 

Blumish Irish Cider

Blumish Irish Cider also elected to use a geofence to target males between the ages of 18 and 34. The campaign shot out a text message when a target was within a half mile of a pub that served the company’s cider. More than 1,000 pubs were used in this geofence project. When activated, the text message would text a map with the location of the pub and point the user in the right direction. During a month-long period, 77,00 text messages were sent out, and the user engaged these messages nearly 50% of the time. What’s more, 25% of those who received the text message actually went out and bought a cider from one of the locations. 

 

Six Flags

In Maryland, Six Flags used text-to-win contests and mobile alerts among its target demographic of teens to boost attendance. They advertised the contests with social media, in park advertisements and radio promotions and received 5,000 new mobile subscribers. These subscribers were sent VIP ticket sales info, park information, and weather updates. The park saw a direct increase in attendance from teens as a result of this campaign. 

August 08, 2015

Social Media Advertising Is More Effective Than It Appears

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Social media channels are excellent avenues to reach out to a variety of consumers, start relevant conversations, raise awareness of your brand, and of course, seek out new leads. The latest studies reveal that 70% of businesses generate leads on social media, and 58% of marketers claim that social media channels have helped them boost sales over the years. Here are some ways in which social media marketing can be a dynamic method of advertising for your business – it’s easier than you think!

  • Social media advertising can play a key role in a content marketing campaign.

Ideally, you’ve already got a website with a landing page, resources, and a high-quality, content-driven blog. To maximize the effectiveness of this content, you must create active profiles on the appropriate social media websites. Your online campaign will not function properly without both components, and they must constantly refer back to one another. For example, a Facebook post should lead a prospect to your content-driven blog; similarly, the resources page of your website should lead to the Pinterest board for your company. 

  • The three E’s of social media advertising: Engagement, Expertise, and Entertainment.

Consumers visit social media sites to socialize, so your advertising efforts must work in tandem with a “cocktail party” mentality. Be personal and human in your posts, comments, and replies. People are looking for expertise; show them that you can deliver on the services they require, and consumers are much more likely to return in the future. (As a caveat, don’t be too technical or complex in your level of expertise. Content should be simple enough for a beginner to understand.) Make your business the go-to company for these types of services and watch your customer base grow. Finally, you have to entertain clients. The info you provide should be relevant, informative, and interesting. And remember: content marketing is not about pitching or direct sales—you want to increase engagement and brand awareness in this process.

  • Swim through social media channels that suit your business.

Obviously, the most popular social media channels are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and SlideShare. Consider the types of people who visit these sites, and whether or not you should advertise your product there. For example, if you have a terrific article for people in your industry, join a few groups on LinkedIn and share your article with them. If your business has a lot of products best showcased through images, then post photos on Instagram or pins on Pinterest to provide more engagement with your brand. All in all, it’s about getting to know your audience and meeting them in the social media environment of their choosing.

  • Join the conversation to amplify your social media advertising efforts.

Eliminate pitches from any post you decide to share on social media for your business. Provide value with expertise in the content you post, driving the conversation with ways you can help (rather than just what you can sell). Answering questions in online forums is a good start. If you don’t know the answer, be honest, as this will help to establish your credibility. Continue to help the people you meet on these social platforms and, before you know it, you will be converting leads. 

Finally, it is important to highlight how necessary it is to respond to comments on social media channels. If you find negative comments, nip them in the bud; respond carefully and inoffensively, and offer help to these individuals. Others will see how helpful you are in handling these negative comments, and they will appreciate your attitude. 

Yes, the comments section is truly where the online conversation takes place, and if you are taking the time to respond to every tweet and reply to every comment, customers will definitely appreciate it.

July 31, 2015

T-Mobile to Add Advanced Messaging to its SMS Services

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According to a recent study, texting is the most used feature on a smartphone across nearly every age demographic. Third-party apps jumped on the wagon early to improve built-in SMS and MMS features and developed apps like Facebook Messenger and Apple's iMessage. Many of these apps make it easier to send large data files, communicate quicker, and confirm messages have been received. However, T-Mobile has just released a new feature for its users that may change the message game altogether, by bringing advanced messaging directly to the device.  

SMS and MMS messaging are still incredibly relevant to smartphone users despite the millions of apps now available to them. Rather than develop its own third-party app, T-Mobile has introduced software called Advanced Messaging, which is built on Rich Communication Services (RCS) and addresses many of the limitations various apps have capitalized on. The service is very democratic—while it’s currently only available on the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime, the software was designed to work on all carriers and across every operating system. Software updates will be necessary for existing devices, but T-Mobile has said that several phones will be available later this year with Advanced Messaging already enabled. 

 

Understanding Advanced Messaging 

Advanced Messaging incorporates several features including real-time messaging, read notifications, currently typing icons, and the ability to send up to 10MB of data via text. With improved regular SMS and MMS messaging on the device itself, users won’t have to reply on compatibility or downloading multiple apps and interfaces. There’s no extra charge for the service but it does require Wi-Fi or LTE to operate the improved features—otherwise the software defaults to regular messaging.

While it is unclear whether or not all smartphones will adopt the software in the future, it’s an interesting approach to take on behalf of the user. On the one hand, the promise of a unified messaging system that operates as well as, if not better than, popular third party apps is a gift to users who would no longer have to think about availability or compatibility. On the other hand, it’s a bold move from T-Mobile that undercuts Apple’s highly integrated app-based platform that emphasizes selection and choice through a variety of different apps.

T-Mobile is not the first carrier to launce RCS, but it is the first carrier to offer it in the US. In 2012, MetroPCS, a flat-rate carrier, released RCS just prior to a merger with T-Mobile. At the time, RCS delivered features like simultaneous voice and multimedia messaging as well as social presence. The merger delivered the scale and financial resources to expand geographic coverage, as well as offer an improved selection of devices and services, so T-Mobile could compete with the nation’s larger carriers. 

Launching Advanced Messaging was a bold choice in the wake of a developing app-based mobile culture. Time will tell if the user-friendly software will proliferate or remain exclusive to T-Mobile users. 

July 28, 2015

SMS Messaging: Conversation Before Apps

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Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? For a GUI (Graphic User Interface) designer, that question is becoming more relevant as the nature of the mobile user influences app development—perhaps towards a post app world? 

That’s a scary thought for a GUI designer, or a developer who unintentionally overlooked the simple truth that text messaging is far and away the most commonly used feature on a smartphone. Almost 97% of all smartphones users engage in text messaging; this familiarity creates incredible potential for a new generation of text-based application that can solve any problem an app can solve, through a more convenient interface: the text screen. 

 

Text-Based Apps Are Nothing New

The above, however, is not a new revelation. In fact, some apps controlled exclusively via text or SMS messaging already exist. Magic, for example, can help you reserve a table, check a bank account, or buy a car, all via text between a user and a concierge (an actual human being) who assists with these requests. WeChat is another app that uses text to bypass traditional apps altogether—effectively creating a universal portal to all things mobile.

According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, across all age groups in the US, text messaging is the most popular feature used on a smartphone. In this way, life is beginning to challenge the artist; while app designers may have intended to make our lives easier by developing apps to meet out every need, at the end of the day, people are universally more comfortable texting—having a virtual conversation to get at what they want. 

There are some people, like Matt Galligan, co-founder of the news aggregation app Circa, that believe we’re headed towards an overhaul of basic software and design. Galligan feels that something called “MessageKit” will be Apple’s catchall for apps located in iMessage. Instead of opening different apps with different design characteristics and UI controls, all the apps would perform their same functions but via text command or queries inside a fluid conversation.  

Apple’s new iOS 9 has already made some considerable shifts in its latest version, one of which is prioritizing app content for Internet search queries made via mobile. While there’s nothing like “MessageKit” available quite yet, it’s an interesting theory that attempts to recognize the user’s reality in a predominantly designer-shaped mobile world. 

One foreseeable drawback is that our familiarity with texting may causes people to use these services at inappropriate times. For example, texting while driving is already a major concern in densely populated areas. Additional text-based services may further encourage our desire for instant access, even behind the wheel.  

It’s ironic that an entire generation gets labeled as ‘less socially communicative’ because it’s always on smartphones, and yet, somehow, that same generation may bring society back full circle, where the digital dialect of texting is used to reinsert what was missing from our mobile lives: conversation.